"Laissez le temps au temps": On the origins and circulation of "baleinières" on Congo's waterways
(IAAW, HU Berlin)
Paper short abstract:
The paper discusses the early postcolonial origins and the development of the DR Congo's wooden baleinières and their multiplication and spread across the waterways of the Congo basin in the times before, during and after Zaire's socioeconomic crisis.
Paper long abstract:
In the 1990s Zaire's state-owned system of passenger transportation by larger carrier boats inherited from colonial times came gradually to a halt. Together with a vanishing road network the end of the "Office National du Transport" (ONATRA) entailed a disruption in the colonial transport geography, causing more "informal" means of transportation such as canoes and the larger "baleinières" to become crucial lifelines and agents of transport and change across the Congo basin. Nowadays propelled by Chinese Diesel engines, and depending on the navigational skills and knowledge of old riverine communities, they combine old and new, local and imported materials and craftsmanship in order to face Congo's transport-related disruptions, thus causing new connections to come about. Based on ethnographic and oral historical research in the provinces of Tshopo and Mai-Ndombe, the paper discusses the early postcolonial origins and the development of the DR Congo's wooden baleinières and their multiplication and spread across the Congo basin in the times before, during and after Zaire's socioeconomic crisis.
Transport and travel - connections and disruptions